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Thoughts on Software Engineering

Speaker at CryptoBlockCon 2018 (11-12 December @ Las Vegas)

I am happy to announce that I was invited as speaker at CryptoBlockCon 2018 – Las Vegas. I will give an overview talk about the consensus algorithms in the blockchain networks, such as proof of work, proof of stake and byzantine fault tolerance.

  • Event: CryptoBlockCon – Las Vegas, 2018
  • Date: 11-December-2018, 12:05 – 12:25 (@ Blockchain Tech Stage)
  • Title: Overview of Blockchain Consensus Algorithms

I will also take part in a discussion panel at CryptoBlockCon:

  • Event: CryptoBlockCon – Las Vegas, 2018
  • Date: 12-December-2018, 12:25 – 13:05 (@ Blockchain Tech Stage)
  • Decentralized panel discussion: “Blockchain Protocol Considerations: Governance, Scalability & Cost

Agenda for the “Consensus Algorithms” Session

In this talk the speaker Svetlin Nakov will explain very briefly the concepts of decentralized consensus and blockchain consensus algorithms, along with examples from popular blockchain networks and DLT ledgers:

  • The concept of Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT)
  • The role of consensus algorithms in decentralized systems and blockchains
  • Proof-of-work consensus (PoW), mining, pools, hash power, ASIC mining, etc.
  • Proof-of-stake (PoS) and its variants: DPoS (delegated PoS), RPoS (randomized PoS), LPoS (leased PoS), PoI (proof of importance), PoB (proof of burn)
  • Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT), dBFT (delegated BFT) and FBA (federated byzantine agreement)
  • Proof-of-Authority (POA)
  • Non-blockchain consensus, asynchronous byzantine fault tolerance (aBFT), Hashgraph, IOTA

I will have less than 20 minutes, so I will just mention some of the concepts, without much details. I will publish slides (and maybe video) later, after the conference.

Slides for the “Blockchain Consensus Algorithms”

Video: Blockchain Consensus Algorithms

Agenda for the “Blockchain Protocol Considerations: Governance, Scalability & Cost” Discussion

Decentralized governance is the most complex element of the decentralized economy.

  • It might work well in small groups, where everyone is deeply involved and takes part in voting.
  • For large communities, it doesn’t work well in most scenarios. It is similar to the modern democracy: people with resources, money, and media power highly influence the voting and control the governance.

Most ICO projects, which raised billions in the last few years, are not decentralized.

  • Almost no project is 100% decentralized. For me 100% decentralized means that project’s founders have the same rights and decision making power like any other community member.
  • Some of ICO startups are partially decentralized and mix decentralized technologies with centralized decision making.

Scalability in the public blockchains is still one of the biggest problems in the blockchain industry.

  • Permissioned blockchains already have less scalability issues, but for public permissionless blockchains the scalability is one of the biggest issues today.
  • My expectations are that in the next few years the upcoming scalability solutions (like blockchain sharding, hierarchical blockchain architectures, asynchronous consensus algorithms, off-chain transactions and state channel frameworks, etc.) will get more industry adoption and some of them will become mainstream. The scalability problems will be mitigated and solved over the time.
  • The cost of transactions and the cost of building and maintaining the public blockchain networks are not the biggest problems and they are directly related to the underlying scalability models. Once the scalability issues are solved, the transaction costs will be reduced in the public blockchains. Some blockchains already provide close to zero transaction costs.

Protocol-level challenges in the blockchain and DLT industry are many:

  • Scalability without the “delegated consensus” model, implementations of sharding and hierarchical blockchains.
  • Сross-chain transactions, working reliably for most popular chains, that will empower the truly decentralized exchanges.
  • Emerging of the “decentralized cloud” technologies: decentralized databases, decentralized messaging, decentralized networking, decentralized storage systems.

Lack of maturity and proven track record for the most blockchain platforms and technologies:

  • We have less “proven industrial platforms” and more “promise to build something platforms”.
  • Proven industrial platforms (like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Stellar, EOS, IPFS, Hyperledger) are production-ready today.
  • Hundreds of platforms promise to build something great, but they are still under development and are not proven over the time (like the Hedera Hashgraph public chain, the Polkadot multi-chain network, the Ethereum sharding technology, and many others).

I am optimist: the DLT industry gets more mature, technologies are emerging, fake ICO fundraising has ended, real-world blockchain adoption is progressing and some day we will have truly working decentralized economies with decentralized cloud and decentralized governance. The development of the DLT, blockchain and p2p protocols will help this to happen.

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